DreamHack Tours seemed like the beginning of something great, but karrigan’s mousesports side has mostly failed to kick on since then. Part bad luck, part unfulfilled promise, many understandable reasons, not that many playoff showings and absolutely no new silverware. Is it time for a change or the extenuating circumstances warrant even more patience?
There’s a certain poetic charm to karrigan’s latest adventure. It’s the return of the prodigal son, having already played under the mousesports banner in 2013 (and one year later as a stand-in before the Dignitas move), now with a chance to establish another high-powered international team by making it more than just the some of its parts, much like how he managed to do so with the original FaZe roster. There’s also the enduring “rag-tag group of rejects” vibe to mousesports, one that mostly permeated them after the departure of NiKo – and with his ouster from FaZe and its many ironic echoes, karrigan also fits this particular bill as well now. His loan stint with Envy showed that he can still work his magic even with less-than-stellar talent at his disposal as well.
This, is, of course, merely jargon and narrative, and while no one was questioning the obvious potential of a karrigan-led side with flexible players like chrisJ and moldable ones like ropz and frozen, one has to wonder about the limits of this enterprise. The org took a big risk with integrating a second talented youngster in a row after a complete collapse in results in the major cycle, and many were surprised by the immediate freezeout of suNny and STYKO from the active lineup (let alone the departure of oskar and lmbt). Though they’ve showcased impressive play against the top sides and were often unfortunate in the seeding department, one has to wonder whether the lack of deep runs and big tournament wins points to unfulfilled potential at this point or smacking into a hard concrete ceiling.
Their inaugural online win against fnatic at ECS Season 7 did more to underscore the Swedes’ wobbliness than anything else, and the subsequent defeat to Vitality clearly showed that there’s more work to be done if they are to challenge for top spots. Over three weeks’ worth of preparation followed, and they comfortably won their Pro League group: again, while the ex-Space Soldiers and OpTic lineups were not particularly notable, their comprehensive victory over North (16-4, 16-5) was the first sign of real progress. They would, of course, go on to finish in the top four at the finals, with a win over FaZe perhaps the most notable result of their run.
IEM Sydney raised the bar somewhat and mousesports failed to clear it. Their initial defeat to BIG must have gone down as a massive disappointment internally, even if they managed to bounce back against them in the lower bracket final. While their 2-0 win over Renegades seemed very impressive at the time, the Aussies haven’t impressed in the few events they’ve participated in after their heroics at the StarSeries Season 7 finals. The eventual elimination to MiBR could be explained away with nerves, but with this being one of FalleN’s least-impressive squads to date, it has to be chalked up as a poor showing.
It’s been over two months at this point since their debut, which is why their subsequent limp defeat to NiP at the fourth week of ECS Season 7 was all the more disappointing. This was the backdrop of their DreamHack Tours adventure.
A heavy early loss to Valiance exactly four months after they eliminated them at the Katowice minor must have awoken a few dormant demons, but it has to be said that they’ve bounced back in impressive fashion, not losing a single map throughout the rest of the event, especially impressing against AVANGAR in the semis. It seemed like the beginning, but right now it’s looking like a false dawn. Since the Pro League Season 9 finals, they only made the playoffs at one of the big LAN events (ESL One Cologne, the StarLadder Major, DreamHack Masters Malmö and now StarSeries i-League Season 8), and they’ve also failed to close out the slam-dunk that was the V4 Future Sports Festival, losing to VP in the semis.
From a birds-eye view, there’s not that much to celebrate of a top ten spot for a team that was ranked in the top five in the world even after falling out of the major cycle. They haven’t collected any big-team scalps since the roster revamp. Many from the commentariat like to refer to the early months as the honeymoon period of the karrigan-led sides when he still has complete authority – if that’s the case, then these showings just weren’t good enough, with little to suggest that they can crack on from a low top ten spot. Perhaps this is what it all hinges upon: with two explosive youngsters in the side, this could truly be a long-term project, and if it works out as such, a longer gestation period is absolutely logical and understandable. However, if its life cycle matches that of karrigan’s previous adventures, they may not manage to hit the heights of the previous mousesports roster.
Photo credit: HLTV
Editor’s note: this is an updated and revised version of “What's the ceiling of the karrigan-led mousesports?”, an article originally published on May 20, 2019.